GPs have been advised to be “constantly alert” to potential threats to patient confidentiality and privacy as their representatives back an opt-in model for data sharing.

This week’s National Local Medical Committees’ conference supported a five point motion which backed GPs role as data holder for patient records, called for an opt-in approach to transfer of identifiable information and demanded that patients should be able to ask for a list of when their Summary Care Record has been accessed and by whom and objected to “obstacles” placed in the path of those wishing to restrict access to their records.

The motion was enthusiastically supported by LMC representatives according to Dr Grant Ingrams, co-chair of the BMA and Royal College of GP’s Joint IT Committee, who claimed that potential threats to patient confidentiality and privacy are increasing all the time.

Dr Ingrams told EHI Primary Care: “The growth of electronic records means its becoming easier and easier to extract more and more data. I am now contacted on almost a weekly basis by an LMC who wants to know whether a local plan is acceptable or not. Sometimes it’s quite reasonable but sometimes it’s driving a coach and horses through the rules and there is no pretence of protecting patient privacy and confidentiality.”

Dr Ingrams advised GPs to be “constantly alert” to potential threats to patient confidentiality which he said had been typified by the government’s now abandoned proposals to allow widespread data sharing between different Whitehall departments.

On the SCR Dr Ingrams said he felt the “average” doctor was now happy with the ‘consent to view’ model for the SCR which means patient data is uploaded on an implied consent basis but that patients must give their consent at each medical encounter before information is viewed.

However Dr Ingrams said he was still concerned about other aspects of the SCR which had been raised by the independent evaluation conducted by University College London, including criticisms of the effectiveness of the initial information campaign.

Dr Ingrams added: “The public information campaign has got to be more effective than it has been so far. In the early adopter areas the UCL evaluation found only one in seven patients knew what the SCR was after the campaign. It’s got to be better than that.”

Dr Ingrams said the LMCs’ debate showed GPs were still very much concerned about ensuring patients privacy is protected.